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Ethel Virginia Norton died peacefully on November 27, 2009 at the age of 87. A life-long resident of San Antonio, she was born on July 2, 1922 to Dr. and Mrs. A.E. Norton. Ethel was devoted to her family, friends, church, country, the Dallas Cowboys and her pets - all generations of "Kittys", Panda Bears and her beloved Whoopie. Ethel was best known for her love of sports, especially tennis, which fostered a life-long athletic career on and off the court. Ethel treasured her years as a teacher with the San Antonio Independent School District and as Summer Program Director for the San Antonio Country Club, where she taught many children how to swim, dive and enjoy the thrill of July 4th swim meets and mandatory "tickle water" drops at the end of every lesson. Ethel Norton graduated from Jefferson High School in 1940. She was the State Interscholastic League Girls' Singles Champion two years in a row in 1939 and 1940. Her high school success led to a full tennis scholarship at Highpoint College in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Ethel went on to win numerous city, state, regional and national tennis tournaments in both singles and doubles, remaining a dominant figure in the sport of tennis during this time period. In 1953, she was ranked #1 in Women's Singles, Women's Doubles and Mixed Doubles by the Texas Lawn Tennis Association and ranked as high as #17 in the U.S. in Women's Singles and #3 in U.S. Women's Doubles by the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association. She and doubles partner, Althea Gibson, were ranked fifth in the nation by the United States Lawn Tennis Association and competed against such notables as Maureen Connelly and Doris Hart. Highlights of Ethel's career included being voted "San Antonio Women Athlete of the Year" in 1954 and induction into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 1989. As a long time educator with San Antonio Independent School District and having spent over 30 years teaching physical education to SAISD students, she was able to share her experiences and love of tennis with children who otherwise might never have had the opportunity to play. The success of former students always provided a great deal of personal satisfaction and many of her former students kept in contact with her throughout their lives. Ethel was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church where she volunteered with the CAM ministry, church bookstore, and Sunday school class. Her faith in God and love of church, family and friends were the cornerstones of her life. She was a role model to many and loved and admired by all who knew her. Ethel was preceded in death by her parents, Dr. & Mrs. A. E. Norton, brothers A.W. (Dub) Norton, Marshall Hopkins Norton, James Baldwin Norton, Huard Hargis Norton, Jack Norton, Stewart Norton and one sister, Mary Jane Saathoff. She is survived by her brother, Dr. A.E. (Earl) Norton, Jr. of San Diego, CA, sister-in-laws Jo Marie Norton of Lago Vista, TX and Ann Norton of San Antonio; nieces Debbie Norton, Suzanne Norton, and Karla Bagster of San Antonio, Wendy Reed of Shreveport, LA, Kris Wright of San Diego, CA; nephews Mike Norton and Dr. Jon Norton of San Diego, CA and numerous grand nieces and nephews. A memorial service is pending for Saturday, December 5, 2009 preceded by a private burial at Mission Park South. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to First Presbyterian Church, 404 N. Alamo, or the San Antonio Humane Society.
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Published in Express-News on Nov. 29, 2009